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Is the Wild West actually in Spain?

If you’ve ever seen a spaghetti western, the chances are you were watching the Spanish province of Almería

  • Is the Wild West actually in Spain?
  • Is the Wild West actually in Spain?
  • Is the Wild West actually in Spain?
  • Is the Wild West actually in Spain?
  • Is the Wild West actually in Spain?
  • Is the Wild West actually in Spain?
  • Is the Wild West actually in Spain?
  • Is the Wild West actually in Spain?

Half a century ago, Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars signalled the beginning of the spaghetti western era. But when Clint Eastwood’s taciturn, watchful Man With No Name arrived in the lawless Mexican border town of San Miguel, he was actually in the dusty Tabernas desert, one of Europe’s only semi-deserts, in Spain’s south-eastern Almería province.

A Fistful of Dollars wasn’t just the start of the Dollars Trilogy – which included For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) – it was the first of 600 spaghetti westerns set in Almería’s distinctive arid landscapes, many of them directed by Italians inspired by Leone and his distinctive cinematography. If you’ve ever seen a ’60s celluloid saloon showdown, the chances are you were looking at Spain. The area’s spectacular landscapes have also acted as the backdrop for everything from Lawrence of Arabia to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Back to the Future III.

But long after the spaghetti western craze faded in the mid-1970s, the old western sets remain. Fort Bravo, also known as Texas Hollywood, is the most prominent of three western sets turned cowboy-style theme parks in the area (the others are Mini Hollywood and Western Leone). It was bought in 1977 by stuntman Rafa Molina, who paid US$6,000 hoping he’d get more work if he owned the bank, saloon bar and the rest. Molina started charging visitors for tours in the early 1980s, and over time added actors in character, mock shoot-outs, boisterous singalongs and horse-riding lessons, including horseback tours of the old film sets and props around Fort Bravo  – there are many, from the spot where Raquel Welch took a very public shower in 100 Rifles to the saloon in Conan the Barbarian.

All the while, Fort Bravo itself has remained an active film set, and not just for feature films – David Beckham’s Wild West Pepsi advert during the 2010 World Cup was filmed here, as was an episode of Doctor Who and music videos by everyone from Kylie Minogue to Jamiroquai and Queen.

The most recent addition has been eight wooden rooms to stay in, with an outdoor pool and free WiFi. Despite creature comforts beyond any self-respecting cowboy, Fort Bravo is a spooky experience after the daytime crowds leave at 8pm – think creaking timber, ominous gallows, and pitch darkness in the abandoned whorehouse. Still, you suspect the Man With No Name would have been just fine. 
 
Fort Bravo, Almería, is just over two hours’ drive from Murcia; Norwegian flies to Murcia from Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim. Book flights, a hotel and a rental car at norwegian.com


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